From Novice to Novelist: How Contests Help Writers at Any Stage

By Camille Eide

I’ve been entering writing contests since I began writing for publication 10 years ago, both as a pre-published and published writer. I’ve won, placed, and been passed over, but regardless of my stage as a writer or the outcome, I’ve never come away from a writing contest empty-handed.

Why should authors enter a writing contest?

Pre-published writers can gain experience polishing their work to submission/publication-level quality. Contests provide a valuable opportunity for writers’ work to be seen by editors, agents, and top industry professionals. Contests also provide connections for potential relationships that can lead to mentoring and moral support as writers pursue excellence in their craft and submissions.

Published authors can also benefit by connecting with judges who may be writers in their genre, with whom they might exchange reviews or endorsements, and whose readers may be also interested in their work.

Whether a writer is published or not, contests require a commitment that not only creates a deadline, but also keeps one accountable and writing. Winning or finaling in a contest adds credibility to the writer’s professional name and can help increase visibility and online presence. Judges’ feedback shows what is touching readers on an emotional level and what is not. Scoresheets and judges’ comments not only point out potential issues with writing technicalities (grammar, pacing, cohesion, etc.), but also a fresh perspective on the gut-level impact of the work (because judges are readers too).

Contests help us see our blind spots or areas we need to strengthen, especially if multiple judges mention the same issue. Judges also prepare us for the varying tastes of readers. One judge raved about how my book’s opening hooked her immediately, while another felt it took too long. Fluctuating responses are a good example of how various readers might react to our work, and this is great preparation for conflicting reader reactions later.

And, if nothing else, encouraging comments and suggestions from contest judges can be a much-needed boost to wavering confidence.

So how can you make the most of a contest entry?

– Read through the contest rules carefully, and follow the guidelines for formatting.

– Read the scoring elements to be sure you understand how your work will be judged.

– Be open to comments from the judges.

– Keep in mind that winning is great, but the commitment you make to yourself and the connections you’ll make with others are priceless.

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Camille Eide

Camille Eide was an OCW Cascade Contest finalist with her novels Like There’s No Tomorrow (2015) and Like a Love Song (2016). Her novel The Memoir of Johnny Devine won the 2016 Cascade Award in Historical Fiction, and was also a Romantic Times (RT) Five-Star Top-Pick. She has finaled or won other awards including the Mt. Hermon/Zondervan First Novel Competition (2009), the ACFW Genesis (2011), the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Inspirational Romance (2016), the RT Editor’s Choice December Seal of Excellence (2016), and received the OCW Cascade Contest Writer of Promise Award in 2016. Camille’s novels were published by Ashberry Lane. In addition to being a wife and Jesus-follower, Camille is mom to three married adults, and grammy to three darling littles. She is a fan of oldies rock, muscle cars, and Jane Austen. Learn more about Camille at www.camilleeide.com/

 

For more tips on how to prepare for a writing contest, check out author Christina Suzann Nelson’s workshop “Submitting Your Best: Contest Prep” at OCW’s Winter One-Day Conference February 25 in Salem.

The 2017 OCW Cascade Contest will open February 14th.

 

 

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